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Tensions Flare in Northern Kosovo: A Deepening Crisis
Tensions escalate in Northern Kosovo as a police operation persists. Accusations fly between leaders, raising concerns about ethnic divisions and potential for further violence in the region.
Mitrovica, Kosovo — The situation in Northern Kosovo remains volatile as a police operation, led by the Kosovo Police, continues in the region. Prime Minister of Kosovo, Albin Kurti, has emphasized that the operation is ongoing and closely coordinated with KFOR and EULEX forces.
Prime Minister Kurti took to Twitter to update the public on Sunday's operation, during which the Kosovo Police seized hundreds of weapons and ammunition, including heavy equipment like machine guns and grenades. The operation was conducted in the village of Banjskë in Zvečan, where a police officer was tragically killed.
Minister Sveçla's Perspective
Interior Minister Xhelal Sveçla has asserted that the individuals involved in the operation had a substantial arsenal and logistical support for hundreds of individuals. He also pointed out that the terrorists' actions, both operationally and politically, had been a complete failure.
Minister Sveçla indicated that this attack could not have occurred without support from external actors, particularly pointing to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and the Serbian state.
Identification of Perpetrators
Sveçla mentioned that some of the attackers have been identified as members of the "Civil Defense," a group designated as terrorists by the Government of Kosovo. He underscored that the police operation would continue, and there is a possibility that more terrorists remain hidden in the mountains, and the number of casualties among them could be higher.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić accused Kosovo's Prime Minister Albin Kurti and the international community of the recent tensions in the north of Kosovo. He claimed that the Kosovo Police had been "politically used against Serbs in the north."
President Vučić referred to the killing of police officer Afrim Bunjaku on Sunday, where multiple assailants surrounded him at the Banjskë Monastery in Zvečan. After a confrontation, the police confirmed the deaths of three attackers and the arrest of six. In an emergency media conference, Vučić stated that those killed were "Kosovo Serbs."
Accusations Against Kurti
Vučić pointed out that since November, Kurti had used the Kosovo Police 62 times against Serbs in the north and cited over "56 politically motivated attacks on Serbs." He questioned why KFOR had not intervened earlier to prevent casualties and accused them of allowing Kurti to "kill as many people as possible."
He alleged that one attacker was in danger of dying because no medical help had been provided, citing audio recordings where Albanian police officers were heard laughing and saying "Leave it."
Vučić claimed that two Serbs were shot by snipers from a distance, and gunfire was directed at houses, some of which were inhabited by elderly individuals.
President Vučić also raised the issue of the involvement of international forces, highlighting that the equipment found at the Banjskë Monastery did not belong to the Serbian Army or Police. He accused the Albanian police of forcibly entering private homes to locate Serbs.
He reiterated his demand for the establishment of a Serbian national police force in northern Kosovo, stating that this was the only way to protect Serbs and prevent further conflicts.
International Pressure and Future Decisions
President Vučić expressed scepticism about international efforts to resolve the Kosovo issue, stating that pressure on Serbia to recognize Kosovo's independence would not work. He warned that Serbia would not succumb to such pressure, even if it meant more violence.
He also criticized the actions of international forces, accusing them of abandoning the attackers and allowing them to be pursued by snipers. Vučić expressed concern that the operation could leave northern Kosovo without defenders against Kurti's alleged "terrorism."
According to Vučić, the police operation involved 460 units.
As tensions escalate, the situation in northern Kosovo remains highly fluid, with deep-rooted political and ethnic divisions threatening to undermine stability in the region. The international community continues to monitor developments closely, with concerns mounting over the potential for further violence and instability.
The deep-rooted divide in Kosovo is epitomized by the refusal of the area's majority Serbs to accept Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, as they continue to regard Belgrade as their capital, more than two decades after the Kosovo Albanian uprising against Serbian oppression.
Ethnic Albanians, constituting over 90% of the population in Kosovo, clash with the aspirations of the northern Serbs, who seek the implementation of the EU-brokered 2013 agreement for the establishment of an Association of Serb municipalities in their region.
A critical step is to address Serbia's alignment of foreign policy with the Kremlin in the Balkans, holding them accountable for their actions. This action can help foster meaningful dialogue between the conflicting parties and pave the way for a more peaceful resolution.
This incident has further escalated tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, both former wartime adversaries, and comes at a pivotal moment in their European Union-mediated dialogue aimed at normalizing relations.
The situation underscores the delicate nature of the peace efforts in the Balkans and raises concerns about the stability of the region. International observers will be closely monitoring developments as diplomatic efforts continue to address this challenging situation.